You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.


February 17th, 2009 by SY

In futile symbolic protest of the new Facebook TOS, I’m deleting my one “Note” in Facebook and reposting it here.

March 15, 2008

Yesterday morning I read — mostly sympathetically — an opinion piece on Salon about youth and the Internet ( One bit of diction pricked me: “Teenagers today read and write for fun; it’s part of their social lives. We need to start celebrating this unprecedented surge, incorporating it as an educational tool instead of meeting it with punishing pop quizzes and suspicion” (emphasis added).

For the last year, since the so-called surge of occupation forces in Iraq, I’ve been taking note of the use of “surge” in the press, on- and off-line, and I believe that its use has increased. Admittedly it’s possible that endless prattle about the surge in Iraq has sensitized me to the word, permitting me to take note, whereas before the word would have slipped past, invisibly, as it were. But I don’t think so. I would contend that, now, everything can be a surge, is capable of surging: profits, hospital admissions, inflation, companies, support for presidential candidates, market demand, unemployment claims, liabilities, interest in an issue, crime, sports teams, prices, emotions, and so on; support for the troop surge itself, if there is any, can be said to surge. Now, “surge” has become so current as to be able to describe the increase in its use: a surge of writers using “surge.”

This is not to say that “surge,” deployed figuratively, cannot accommodate this broad range of uses. Rather, reflecting on the current context of this range, I want to ask to what extent the militarization of the U.S. is accompanied by, or bound up with, a rhetorical militarization. After all, I’ve just written “deployed” in connection with the use of a word.

A friend commented nearly a year later, writing:

Very astute. And not to have elicited a comment. Pearls before swine. I’d like to suggest “seiche” as a possible antidote to the overuse of “surge.” A seiche, I learned today, is a standing wave in an enclosed body of water that, due to its long wavelength, is often imperceptible to the eye (

I’m thinking that “seiche” could be used to describe long, subtle trends, that go unnoticed to “observers in boats on the surface.” Say, ramping up of law enforcement surveillance after 9/11, or rising rents in NYC.

It is not a sexy, militarized word. The other problem is one of pronunciation. “Pronounced “/seɪʃ/, or approximately saysh)”, it does not rhyme with quiche. Please advise.

Comments are closed.